One of the most inspirational Scottish Olympians of all time has to be Eric Liddell. Although born in China, his parents were Scottish and he was the first from his country to win Gold during the 1924 Paris Olympics. Part of his story has been immortalised in the film, “Chariots of Fire”.
As a committed Christian Eric Liddell refused to race on Sunday and was forced to withdraw from the 100 metres, which was considered his best race. Instead, Liddell raced in the 400 metres. As Liddell went to the starting blocks for the race, an American athlete slipped a piece of paper into his hand with a quotation from the Bible, “Them that honour Me I will honour.” 1 Samuel 2:30.
Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand and not only won the race but broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds.
One of his famous quotes was, “Christ for the world, for the world needs Christ” and after the Olympic games, Eric Liddell felt this so strongly that he made it his purpose to go back to China and tell that great nation all about the love of God in sending His Son Jesus Christ into the world to die for them.
Whilst there, the Japanese invaded China and in 1940, Liddell told his wife to take their children to Canada where she could live with her parents. He stayed behind in Tientsin to continue his work. Liddell was sent by the Japanese to an Internment Camp where 1,800 other internees were confined. He worked tirelessly in the Camp, doing just about anything that needed to be done, whether it was bible study, teaching children or organising sports activities. In a prisoner exchange bargain, his freedom was arranged by Winston Churchill, but he gave it up to let a pregnant woman leave instead.
By 1944, Liddell was not well at all. The doctors did not have the resources to diagnose the real nature of his problem. On February 21, 1945, he began coughing uncontrollably. According to a fellow missionary, Liddell’s last words were, “It’s complete surrender”, in reference to how he had given his life to his God. This man was truly committed to the cause of Christ. He had the opportunity to leave China but he chose to stay. He poured his life into the work of reaching the people of China with the gospel. He worked for a prize far greater than gold, even Olympic gold.
He personally was looking forward to a day when he would be in heaven, he was depending on a sure and certain hope that can only be found through Jesus Christ and on the basis of the work He completed at Calvary.
I wonder, do you have that same hope for eternity as Eric did? He knew where he was going after this life was over, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a day in Eric’s life when he came to realise he was a sinner and that self effort did not feature when it came to the salvation of his soul and the forgiveness of his sins. He also understood that Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, had loved him and died for him. He placed his faith in what Jesus Christ had done for him on the cross of Calvary receiving forgiveness and assurance of salvation.
Do you have the assurance that Eric had? You can, the Bible declares in Ephesians 2: 8 & 9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.”
Going for gold in the Olympics demands effort; getting right with God demands faith in Jesus Christ.